Two-thirds of public support independent education

As HMC conference opens today, private school heads hit back at Labour's plans to 'integrate' private schools into state system
30th September 2019, 12:03am


Two-thirds of public support independent education
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Over two-thirds of people - 68 per cent - support the idea that parents should be able to pay for their child's schooling if they can afford it, according to findings from a ComRes survey.

The survey of 2,016 adults also found that only about one fifth - 18 per cent - of respondents were against private schools. The results are expected to be announced today by Fiona Boulton, chair of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) at the organisation's annual conference.

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The study found that more than half of Labour voters - 56 per cent - support private education, while 83 per cent of Conservative voters and 70 per cent of Liberal Democrat voters agree with private schools.

Ms Boulton, who is the headmistress of Guildford High School and the second female chair of the HMC, will say that these findings prove there is a lack of political appetite for the abolition of private schools after a motion passed at the Labour party conference this week to "integrate" independent schools fully into the state sector.

The move by Labour was welcomed by Laura Parker, national coordinator of Labour movement Momentum, who said every child deserved a world-class education, not only those who are able to pay for it.

But Ms Boulton will argue that most parents are in favour of private schools.

"Voters want the government to help more children to get access to independent schools. Parents are ambitious for their children and people want to see our schools opening up, not closing down," she is expected to say.

"This tells us that the policy of destroying great independent schools is a vote loser. The political activists who want to tax good schools to death without a notion of how to nurture achievement elsewhere, do not understand the common sense of the British people."

The survey also found that nearly half of respondents supported the use of bursaries and other schemes to help disadvantaged pupils to attend private schools.  In total, 49 per cent of those surveyed agreed with schemes to help children from low-income backgrounds attend fee-paying schools, with 46 per cent of Labour voters, 52 per cent of Conservative and 47 per cent of Lib Dem voters in agreement with this.

In addition, it found that while 35 per cent of respondents trusted the government and local councils to run schools well, 41 per cent said they did not trust them to do so.

Mike Buchanan, executive director of HMC, said: "This survey reveals a remarkable gulf between the Labour party's official policy to abolish or punitively tax independent schools and the views of those who voted Labour just two years ago."

"It also underlines the public belief that parents should be free to make choices for their children, including paying for their child's education rather than asking the state to do so."

"It is striking that the findings suggest the public is in no mood to uproot a valued national asset, and many would like to see the benefits offered by independent schools made even more widely available."

"This a view driven by common sense and compassion rather than ideology. All politicians would do well to heed it."

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